This weekend at our church, Elliot and I got to be a part of the MLK service. I wrote him a letter, and my dear friend and fellow mama Ashlee wrote a letter to her daughter, Brooklyn, about the many hopes and fears we have for each of them. As I have had some time to reflect on the letters, their similarities and differences continue to encourage, sadden, and challenge me. I keep wanting to add more hopes and fears to my letter, but I have a feeling that I will never truly be finished.
If you would like to see the full piece, you can watch it here.
My dear boy. I knew for a long time that I wanted to be a mom, but I never knew how much I would love being YOUR mom. Almost 5 months in, I can already tell how sweet and silly and thoughtful and interested in the world around you you are.
I was in labor for over 60 hours and when you were finally born, I was exhausted in every way possible. There are two moments I won’t ever forget that occurred immediately after you were born: hearing Dad announce “It’s a boy!” (which I had been pretty convinced of even though we hadn’t found out beforehand), and the doctor telling me how beautiful the color of your skin was.
You were born on August 18th, the same day that the National Guard arrived in Ferguson, Missouri. I remember your dad and I sitting in our hospital room that night, feeling shaken back into reality, so completely saddened that this was the state of the world we were bringing you into; a world infected with so much division and anger and fear. We spent the first night of your life talking about how something really big was happening in Ferguson, and at the same time, something really tiny and delicate was happening in that Chicago hospital room that had just made us a family.
I kept thinking about what the doctor had said to me about your skin color and wondering if all moms hear that—and if they do, whether there is a moment or an age where their son's skin color shifts from being beautiful to being a burden.
Darling boy, I have so many hopes and fears for you. I am afraid that as a white male, you won't think the topics of race and reconciliation apply to you. That you are somehow exempt, or that as long as you don't spew out hate-filled noise, you are not part of the problem. I fear that the privileges you enjoy you won't work to share; that the lens through which you see and understand the world will be stained by stereotypes, and that you will not choose to push back against these lies.
I hope that you are a lifelong learner; that you stay curious and see the journey of justice and reconciliation as a great adventure. I hope for moments where people of different backgrounds and cultures than your own give you grace for the things you don't know, and that you have courage to seek to understand their stories and to be a humble and sincere listener. I hope that you are stretched to hold tight to both the beauty and pain that are sure to emerge for you as a reconciler. I hope for endurance and for a community that challenges you and reminds you that you are not alone in your attempts to be a voice with those whose own voices are so often ignored. May your very existence be an act of rebellion against systems that exclude and perpetuate inequality.
So many people seem to be asking what the “something” is that they should do, but I pray that you will not just do something, but again, like Dr. King said, be the “something” that helps bring healing and grace and justice into our world. Having you makes everything feel possible again.
It’s me, Mama. I just need you to know from the very beginning that I love how in love I am with you. Being your mama for these first few days has been incredible, as well as incredibly hard. But I will gladly lose sleep and go showerless in exchange for the honor of being able to hold and rock you in my arms.
As your mom, I want to protect you from so much, admittedly some of the same things I experienced in life. I fear the day you tell me you don’t like your thick curly hair because it won’t lay flat in a ponytail like the other girls’. Or the day you tell me you don’t like how dark your skin is because someone told you that dark skin is ugly. I fear that no matter how much Daddy and I teach you manners and common courtesy, some people won’t give you the courtesy of getting to know wonderful you are before they make up their minds about your character, your motives, and your worth. I fear the day you tell me you were followed around that one store in the mall for no reason, or when someone tells you you were only accepted into that school “because you’re black." And I fear that there will come a day where you feel injustices towards you are commonplace and run-of-the-mill – and that you will feel powerless in the face of adversity.
There’s a lot I hope for you in this life, too. I hope you accept the radical love of God and love others in the same way. I want you to love how you’ve been created – exactly as is – without fear or shame.
I hope you can be the “something” that happens to our world - calling others to the holy work of forgiveness, reconciliation, and selfless love. Be the “something” that awakens hearts and ignites a passion for change. You will by no means know how to do this perfectly or all at once, but your path will be directed – that I know for sure. I’m with you every step of the way, baby girl.